Home Q&A Q&A with Pellow van der Westhuizen

Q&A with Pellow van der Westhuizen

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As the Clermont frontrower was watching the Rugby World Cup we managed to catch up on his move to the Northern hemisphere which happened in not so easy circumstances.

Signed on as a medical joker Pellow arrived as a medical joining Colomier on what he felt was up to the end of the current season and an extra year. What he wasn’t aware of was the mistake made with the contract which saw his representative miss that timeline detail which meant he only had a three month deal and having sold everything in South Africa to move to France he was in now in a spot of bother.

He had turned down a move to the Pumas for a year contract there, you can imagine the dilemma. Let’s find out how it all ended up for Pellow and hopefully find out why the french don’t take away games that serious.

Hi Pellow, how are you?

I am well, thank you.

How did you adapt to French rugby having been used to the style of rugby in South Africa? Who got you there?

I have played here for 3 years in the Pro league. It is physical and a little slower. Now that I have managed to move into the Top 14 it is quick, physical and everything is influenced by the field, weather or ground. It was a tough outing lately against Bordeaux and we had to come from behind to get a draw and now it’s a rest. It will be like pre-season again when we return.

On Top 14 rugby?

I am used to South African rugby and if you conditioned to SA Rugby you will be able to adapt. There is also a quick tempo here and there and I have managed to adapt to my teams quickly and to be at Clermont is an absolute privilege. I have to train in some of the best facilities in Europe and it is very professional and being a first for me I am enjoying.

You manage to play for the Leopards, Sharks and Pumas. What do you feel was the reason you did not manage to break through to Super Rugby?

I think at that stage they did not open up their shores and take players from their smaller teams. They just trusted their core players and that was it. I managed to be in the Super squad under Eugene Eloff but that was as close as it got. The current Lions coaches of Ackermann and de bruin are doing a fantastic job and taking players from the surrounding smaller unions and are managing to improve and develop the raw talent. Some of the smaller unions have players that have played SA A or SA u20. I was part of the u19 SA side that managed to win the junior championship in Paris and it was all about opportunity.

Most of the bigger unions have slowly started to look lower for talent and Armand van der Merwe (medical joker at Racing Metro at the moment) and Franco Mostert, Garth April are prime examples. Lots of talent is there and the coaches who are willing to give them those chances need to be applauded. Credit to the Lions, Pumas who have done this and their results are evident.

You played a part, in the Royal XV that played against the British & Irish Lions. How did that feel?

One of the highlights of my career, you playing with your heroes, some of the best players in the world but more importantly you are dealing with a situation where some players will never get the opportunity to play against the Lions who tour every 12 years.

Tell us more about your time in France after the move?

…playing against Lyon after the move which was complicated it was -16 degrees. You can imagine nothing is ideal here, I had to dig deep and make this work. I worked hard and impressed with my work rate. I earned a contract to the end of the season and an extra two years. I just wanted the opportunity and I grabbed it. It’s all about stepping out of your comfort zone.

How did you and your family handle the change?

It is all a challenge. The fact is that any South African moving away from home will find challenges to adapt but when you are focused enough you will be able to adapt and you also realise that this is a job. You will look to try fit in, adapt learn the language and they will embrace you.

What would be a lasting rugby memory that you will cherish forever?

When I was in high school and I managed o player with the Habana, Jaque Fourie, etc. The call from the manager that I will be going to Italy was an amazing achievement. It was the big wake -up call that I will be a professional player.

In your opinion, why do French teams handle away games in a lacklustre way?

No one can understand that, they prefer to play in front of their crowds and banking on the home win. Maybe that’s why there so many foreigners here. We are always playing away from home technically. *chuckles* I just can’t answer that, players who have been here for 8-10 years can’t find an answer for that too.

Thanks Pellow for your time!

No problem Ben.

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